So after undertaking another massive bus journey across the Gran Sabanna, getting repeatatively searched, and stopping a night in Santa Elaina, a fairly nice town on the Venezuelan border, we undertook our final border crossing of the trip- back into Brazil. The border crossing was fairly straightforward, except getting screwed over by the taxi driver again, who dropped us off at the Venezuelan exit side and left us to walk across the border to Brazil in the heat. Nevermind, at least we can say weve walked across 5 international borders. Anyway, it wasnt so much the roasting hot walk that was the problem, rather the fact that there were no cash machines at the border dispensing Brazillian reis. So we were stuck at the border, 2 hours away from the nearest Brazillian town of Boa Vista, which also contained the nearest cash machines. Again, common sense does not prevail in Latin America. We were also faced with the problem that we cant understand a word of Portugese, which makes everything much harder. Eventually we managed to explain our problem by speaking spanish with a portugese accent to a taxi driver, who said hed take us to a cash machine in Boa Vista and we could pay when we got there. ´Sem Problemas´. The only problem in fact was that he was smuggling loads of duty free beer over the border in his taxi and we got pulled over by the po po- but he somehow wangled his way out of it.
Once we got to Boa Vista, we decided to head straight to Manaus via a long road through the Amazon- meaning yet another epic bus journey. Anyway it wasnt so bad, we slept most of the way, and when the bus did inevitably break down in the arse end of nowhere, there were loads of parrots and toucans flying about to keep us entertained. When we did arrive the next day, we caught a bus into town with a Venezuelan guy we had met on the bus and checked into a cheap as chips hotel, with air con and everything. It was only after returning back at the hotel in the evening after a day of exploring Manaus, that we noticed the amount of skanky prostitutes lurking about the place, and realized we were staying in a Brothel. Which explained the cheap prices. The icing on the cake was when a pimp woke us up at about 3 in the morning to tell me my time was up and that I hadnt paid for the lady in my room. I had to explain that it was my girlfriend and that we were staying the nice. Nice.
So the next day we checked out straight away, and found a hostel to stay in- we ended up paying the same price as the air conditioned room for a pair of hammocks on the roof, but at least there were no skanky prossies- and we had a nice view.
Manaus itself was a fairly indescript city- for me it lacked the cool jungle vibe of Iquitos- probably because its got a bit more money, so modern concrete skyscrapers have replaced most of the cool old rubber boom buidings. Still being Brazil, there was a cool music scene, and we sat out one night watching a really cool impromptu Bossa Nova gig in one of the plazas.
There were some other nice things to do around the city as well, one day we went to the ´forest of science´, a big leafy jungle park with some free roaming animals and some big manatees in a tank. It was cool because I had seen Stephen Fry swimming with those manatees in a documentary a year ago or something.
We also took a day trip to see the Encuentro dos Aguas, or meeting of te waters, where two different coloured rivers run side by side without mixing together, which was quite cool. You cant actually see all that much from the water level, but we did get to see a cool little river town nearby with lots of colourful houses on stilts, where we ate a massive fish for about a pound, and then saw a load of grey river dolphins jumping about in the river on the way back which was nice!
Anyway that was about it, we saw the encuentro a bit better the next day when we took a riverboat out of Manaus to Santarem...